The Armenian government on Thursday formally objected to the passage of an opposition bill that would make it a crime for parliament deputies to vote in place of their colleagues not attending a parliament session.
The practice has been commonplace among mainly pro-government members of the current and previous Armenian parliaments, allowing the government to narrowly push through major laws and amendments on several occasions. It is provoking increasingly vocal protests from opposition lawmakers arguing that it runs counter to the National Assembly statutes. The parliament speakers and their deputies have largely ignored those protests.
The Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, one of the opposition groups represented in the assembly, last moth moved to curb absentee voting on the parliament floor by putting forward a bill that would make it tantamount to fraud.
The Armenian Ministry of Justice made a negative evaluation of the bill and it was approved by Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian’s cabinet. A ministry statement presented by Justice Minister Hrayr Tovmasian said the Zharangutyun proposal is at odds with the definition of fraud set by the Criminal Code.
Zaruhi Postanjian, one of the Zharangutyun deputies, dismissed this explanation. “Under both the constitution and the National Assembly statutes, deputies have no right to vote in place of other deputies,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Postanjian said the government, which controls the majority of parliament seats, is disinterested in the measure because it often has trouble ensuring the presence of a sufficient number of loyal lawmakers during National Assembly sessions. “It’s pro-government deputies that are usually absent,” she said.
Postanjian added that her party will continue pressing for the bill’s passage despite the government objections. The parliament majority is likely to block it, however.